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What Is a Good GPA?

By the OnlineU team | Updated 9/12/2023

A good GPA will help you get into the college of your choice and enable you to be competitive in the job market after graduation. While 3.0 is considered average, 3.5 or higher may be the score to strive for in order to stand out from the crowd, whether for a bachelor's degree or master's degree. However, a good GPA can also be somewhat subjective, and what's considered "good" in one school or program may not be in another — the more competitive the school and program, the higher the average GPA may be. Therefore, it's critical to understand what's required for admission, graduation, and employment in order to set realistic expectations for success.  

By the OnlineU team | Updated 9/12/2023

A good GPA will help you get into the college of your choice and enable you to be competitive in the job market after graduation. While 3.0 is considered average, 3.5 or higher may be the score to strive for in order to stand out from the crowd, whether for a bachelor's degree or master's degree. However, a good GPA can also be somewhat subjective, and what's considered "good" in one school or program may not be in another — the more competitive the school and program, the higher the average GPA may be. Therefore, it's critical to understand what's required for admission, graduation, and employment in order to set realistic expectations for success.  

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What Is a GPA?

Grade point average (GPA) is a standard way of determining a student's academic achievement. High schools and colleges throughout the U.S. use this system for grading and scoring. 

The GPA scale is also used as a metric to evaluate prospective students and employees. Colleges and universities use the GPA scale to assess enrollment eligibility. In addition, GPA may be used to determine eligibility for scholarships and other forms of financial aid, participation in college sports and academic activities, and admission to graduate school. Some employers may also use your GPA as a hiring qualification, though they usually consider your abilities, skills, and prior work experience as well.

How Is GPA Calculated?

To begin calculating your GPA, each letter grade is assigned a corresponding point value based on the 4.0 GPA scale that's most prevalent in the U.S., with 4.0 being the most points you can earn for a letter grade and 0 being the least: 

A = 4.0

B = 3.0

C = 2.0

D = 1.0

F = 0.0

Once each grade is assigned points, you can calculate your GPA by dividing the total points you earned by the total credits you attempted in a particular academic term. High school GPAs are usually the easiest to calculate because most high school courses are worth 1.0 credit for those taken during the entire school year and 0.5 for those lasting only a semester. 

To give an example of how your GPA is computed in high school, let's say you receive your final report card for the year and it looks like this:

7 Total Credit Hours Attempted | 22.5 Total Grade Points Earned

So, to calculate your GPA for the year, you'd use the following formula:

22.5 Total Grade Points Earned _______________________________ =  3.21 GPA7 Total Credit Hours Attempted

For reference, the average high school GPA is 3.0, so at 3.21, you would be doing better than most of your peers and have an average that's higher than a B.

Calculating your college GPA is the same, although your credit hours and grade points may differ depending on academic level, length of term (semester or quarter), and course content. 

To give an example of a college GPA, let's look at the grade report you receive at the end of a semester in college:

14 Total Credit Hours Attempted | 47 Total Grade Points Earned

So, to calculate your GPA, you'd once again multiply your credit hours by the grade point value to determine the total grade points you earned, and then use the following formula:

47 Total Grade Points Earned _______________________________ =  3.36 GPA14 Total Credit Hours Attempted

At 3.36, you'd have an average that's higher than a B (and higher than the average GPA).

Unweighted GPA vs. Weighted GPA

Some high schools use weighted and unweighted GPA scoring. A weighted score gives more points for each letter grade, such as in an advanced placement (AP) class, where the curriculum may be considered more rigorous or even college-level. An unweighted score typically applies to grade-level courses such as general English or PE classes. 

While a perfect unweighted score is 4.0 grade points, it's 5.0 when it's weighted. A good unweighted score is usually higher than 3.5 and close to or equal to 4.0. A good weighted score is over 4.0 or equal to a perfect weighted score of 5.0.

Here's an example of how it works:

Your friend may be enrolled in a general U.S. History class while you are in the U.S. History AP class. You both earn Bs at the end of the semester. However, while your friend's B is worth 3.0 grade points, yours is worth 3.3 because of the nature of the advanced coursework you completed. If both you and your friend received As in your respective history classes, which would normally be worth 4.0 grade points, yours may be worth more because it's weighted and could equal closer to 5.0.

Cumulative GPA vs. Overall GPA

Cumulative GPA covers all of your grades in an academic semester or quarter. Alternatively, overall GPA is the average of all of your cumulative GPAs. A good cumulative GPA and a good overall GPA to target is higher than 3.0, as this is considered above average. 

An above-average GPA may increase your chances of being accepted at your top-choice school and program for an undergraduate or graduate degree. 

What Is a Good GPA in High School?

A good high school GPA is above a B average, or 3.0 GPA on the 0.0 to 4.0 grade point scale that high schools typically use. You should strive for at least a 3.5 GPA to be competitive because many colleges will only accept applicants with higher-than-average GPAs. A good GPA may also give you more choices and increase your chances of receiving merit scholarships. 

However, you may have a seemingly unfair advantage in the eyes of college recruiters if your high school GPA includes weighted scores because you took AP classes. To adjust your scores to align with other applicants and to level the playing field, colleges may recalculate your GPA to ensure consistency and equity among applicants.

The following chart gives you a better idea of how specific letter grades and percentages breakdown in the scale:

What Is a Good GPA To Get Into College?

A good GPA is the one that gets you into your college of choice, though you should generally strive for something above 3.0 to be considered above average among your peers. However, this varies by school and program. Each college you apply to falls into one of three categories, including reach, match, and safety schools, depending on your GPA and entrance exams (if required).

A reach school is one that you may not expect to get into but you apply for anyway, such as competitive colleges in the Ivy League. A good GPA is 3.75+ for a school like Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, which are highly competitive. 

A match school has admission requirements that match your GPA and SAT/ACT scores. You aren't guaranteed acceptance, but you can be confident knowing that you meet school admission requirements. Your chances of getting accepted into a match school are higher than a reach school.

A safety school is a school where you have more to offer than its average students. Your GPA and SAT scores may be higher, and you'll have a greater chance of being accepted. These schools may also waive some admissions requirements, such as standardized test scores.

What Is a Good GPA for Scholarships?

GPA requirements for scholarships vary depending on the type of scholarship, though above 3.5 is often considered a good benchmark in order to become eligible to apply for those that are academic-based. To increase your chances of receiving scholarships, strive for the highest GPA possible to outpace the competition. 

It's important to remember that scholarships are often awarded not only to those with high GPAs but to those with high college entrance exam scores who participate in extracurricular activities and volunteer in their communities.

What Is a Good GPA for Transfer Students?

Identifying a good GPA for transfer students depends on the program and degree level into which you're transferring. For example, you will generally need a 2.0 GPA or higher to transfer into a bachelor's degree program. You'll typically need a 3.0 GPA to transfer to grad school to complete your master's degree. However, if you are transferring into a competitive program — such as a nursing program, business degree, or law program — you may need to transfer with a GPA above 3.5 to be considered for admission.

What Is a Good GPA in College?

A good college GPA is typically higher than 3.1. Achieving this will keep you challenged, in good standing, eligible for scholarships, and increase your chances of admission into grad school if you're interested.

What Is a Good GPA to Graduate College With?

A good GPA that can help you earn a spot on the Dean's List and graduate college with academic honors is generally 3.5 or higher. Graduating with honors means receiving special recognition for academic performance and includes the following:

  • Cum-Laude: 3.5 to 3.7 GPA, or the top 20-30% of graduating students
  • Magna Cum-Laude: 3.8 to 3.9 GPA, or the top 10-15% of graduating students
  • Summa Cum-Laude: 4.0+ GPA, or the top 1-5% of graduating students

Good GPAs for Popular Undergraduate Programs

A good GPA for popular undergraduate programs is generally 3.5 or higher, especially at the nation's top colleges and universities. Popular programs can also be competitive due to academic rigor and prestige, driving average GPAs even higher. 

Good GPA for Engineering Programs

Degrees — such as mechanical engineering programs, aerospace programs, and civil engineering programs — are popular and competitive among college students, causing the average GPA to soar. You should aim for a 3.7 GPA or higher to enter an engineering program and increase your chances of earning scholarships. Achieving a high GPA in high school in preparation for enrolling in an engineering program can also help prepare you for the demands of college. 

Good GPA for Business Programs

Business programs, including accounting and finance degrees, are also popular, especially for students interested in pursuing MBAs. Again, targeting a minimum 3.5 GPA can position you for enrollment into many of these programs, though you may need a GPA of 3.8 to 4.0 if you're interested in the Ivy Leagues.

What Is a Good GPA for Graduate School?

3.5 and above is a good GPA to achieve for graduate school. However, some programs prefer enrolling students with higher GPAs. For example, 3.6 or higher is considered a good GPA for a new student enrolling in an MBA program offered at prestigious business schools, such as Wharton, U.C. Berkeley, Columbia, and Yale. A 3.7 or higher is preferred at Stanford and Harvard. However, other well-regarded programs will accept GPAs as low as 3.2. 

At this degree level, schools are often more interested in how well you did in your major courses and your cumulative GPA for those courses.

A good GPA for a PhD program is similar to what is expected of a master's program student. It would be best if you strive for higher than 3.5, especially for top-ranked schools, but many schools accept GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5. At this degree level, schools are often more interested in how well you did in your major courses and your cumulative GPA for those courses.

Good GPAs for Popular Graduate Programs

Good GPAs for popular graduate programs are also generally above 3.5. Similar to undergraduate programs, these popular degrees can also be highly competitive. An above-average GPA shows an admission board that you excel in school and are committed to your studies.

Good GPA for Medical School

A good GPA for medical school is 3.7 or higher. The admissions process for medical schools is incredibly competitive. However, most medical schools use a holistic approach to reviewing college applications based on basic principles that consider other important factors, such as student diversity, life experience, individual attributes, and academic achievement.

Good GPA for Law School

A good GPA for entering one of the top law schools is generally 3.7 or higher. However, schools also consider your LSAT scores when determining enrollment eligibility. They may combine your GPA with your LSAT score to establish an "admission index." They'll also consider your undergraduate performance trend to see if performance improved over the course of your undergraduate program.

How To Improve Your GPA in College

There are several actions you can take to help you improve your GPA and maintain good grades while in college: 

  • Avoid classes you don't need. While some classes may seem fun or interesting, if they don't fit in with your schedule or graduation requirements, consider skipping. 

  • Show up to class, stay organized, and turn your assignments in on time. If you can do these three things and develop good study habits, you place yourself in a good position to get help when you need it because you are showing you are putting in the effort.

  • Choose a target GPA, especially if you are interested in graduate school. Having a specific goal to reach can help you plan and keep organized so you can focus your efforts and maximize your time and energy.

  • Speak to your instructor or program advisor. Ask if they have any advice or suggestions for staying on top of your studies and making the most out of each assignment and class.

  • Use learning resources available from your school. The tuition and fees you pay go towards school resources you should use, such as the library, tutoring services, writing centers, computer labs, and other educational resources. 

  • Join study groups or study with high-GPA students. Join or form study groups to work with other like-minded students striving to achieve their best. Or, if you know someone in class who is doing well, ask if you can study with them. 

  • Ask questions. Never be afraid to speak up and ask questions. If you are intimidated by a class or an instructor, ask a classmate if you don't understand something — sometimes students have an easier time understanding difficult concepts from other students.

  • Study from past tests. Learn from your mistakes and successes in order to do better the next time. Reviewing your graded tests can be a great indicator of your strengths and areas for improvement.

  • Improve your note-taking skills. There is an art to taking good notes. Grammarly offers some helpful insight and advice on taking good notes for school, no matter what you are studying. Many students also find that the Cornell Note Taking System is both effective and efficient.

  • Do the extra credit. If extra credit is offered, consider doing it. This can be an easy way to bolster your grade and GPA while learning something new.

  • Switch majors. If you find yourself struggling, it may be time to consider your major and if it's right for you. Your instructor or program advisor may be able to help you search alternate degree paths and provide additional insight to help you decide.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is the higher the GPA you can achieve, the better, and you should consider striving for 3.5 or higher. It can help you remain competitive, so you have a better chance of being accepted into the school of your choice and winning scholarships to help pay for school. A high GPA can also position you for graduate school if you are interested in earning a master's degree or doctoral degree. However, it's important to remember that many schools consider other factors of your academic background and extracurricular activities when considering you for enrollment.

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